Jean-Michel Jarre creates algorithmic app – EōN
Posted on: Wednesday 1st of April 2020
An extract from DANNY TURNER’s interview with Jean-Michel Jarre in Resolution V19.2
How does EōN differentiate itself from those generative-based ambient albums?
With an ambient-style project it’s easier to give a feeling of constant evolution, but not in terms of texture, beats, loops and atmospheres. With the EōN project, we wanted to deal with different BPMs, textures and styles while keeping my personal touch.
With the emergence of artificial intelligence, there are two ways to approach collaboration with technology through algorithms. When I collaborate with Moby or Massive Attack I’m expecting them to give me content that, by definition, is not mine and bring fresh ideas. That’s one way of working with algorithms – to expect them to feed new ideas and melodies, and that’s something I’m working on even if the results are not convincing, yet.
The other way is to compose a huge toolbox of music, so the content is entirely human, and then the algorithm is remixing and rearranging the different patterns and sequences. For EōN, it took me one year to compose hours of music where every pattern and sequence is able to work with everything else in terms of tonality and BPM.
So you didn’t write songs per se, but sections of music that had the potential to interact?
It was quite similar to symphony orchestration where you’re writing the strings, brass section and percussion and trying to match them. The sequences were 10 seconds to 3 minutes in length and I defined different rules to go from one tonality or chord to another and create sound effects made of common notes. For instance, you can go from C Minor to F Major because the C is common in both chords. All these tricks and processes allowed me to give a variety of styles, tempos, melodies and textures.
Presumably, you had to test that everything would converge harmonically?
Like anything, you define your own grammar or vocabulary. At the beginning I was quite concerned that it could become too repetitive or abstract, but step by step I built my own principles until it started to work quite well. For example, every piece should be a definition of the same category of BPM and if you have a dissonant texture it shouldn’t work with something that’s not dissonant.
Many of your albums are conceptually driven. Was that something you could apply to the music for EōN?When you’re writing an album you always have pre-conceived ideas but it’s a constant fight between those and the direction you take. Those ideas pull you backwards and forwards but also show where you to go. For EōN, while listening to the music I was quite surprised that it sounded like it was coming from me and not leaning towards an abstract algorithm. What’s fascinating is that when I listen to EōN as a generative app, I still recognise every piece of it – and that’s fun for me and hopefully the listener.